Justice Sule Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos, has ordered the immediate release of a driver, Jones Ofori, also known as James Ofori, who has been in prison custody since 2013 without trial.
The court also ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to pay the driver the sum of N10 million as damages for his unlawful arrest and illegal detention.
The court gave the verdict while delivering judgement in an enforcement of fundamental rights suit filed by the driver through his lawyer, Adewale A. Fadipe.
Joined as respondents in the suit were the Federal government of Nigeria, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and the Deputy-Controller of Prison (DCP).
Ofori, in the suit asked the court for a declaration that his arrest and detention for two weeks and a week at Ajiwe Police Station and Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) Ikeja respectively, was illegal and constituted an infringement on his fundamental rights to personal liberty as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And a declaration that his continued imprisonment without trial constituted an infringement on his freedom to personal liberty as guaranteed by Nigeria’s constitution.
He further asked the court to award the sum of N50 million in his favour for his unlawful arrest, detention and continued detention.
Ofori in an affidavit deposed to by Oguntuwase Olatunde, a lawyer in the Law firm of Wale Fadipe and Co., averred that sometime in the year 2013, he was employed by one Mr. Ikechukwu to be driving a car for commercial purpose and he was delivering the sum of N3,500,000, on daily basis.
He stated that on November 14, 2013, at about 9p.m, after closing for the day, he parked the car at a general car park around his house in Ajah, Lagos and on November 14, 2013 at about 6 am, on getting to where the car was parked in order to clean it and get ready for the day’s work, he discovered that the car was missing.
The deponent stated that upon the discovery that the car was missing, he put a call to the said Mr. Ikechukwu with whom they both went to the Ajiwe Police where he was asked some questions by the police officers on duty. He said afterwards, the Investigative Police Officer (IPO) told him that he have to be detained while the investigation was going on.
He also stated that after being in detention for two weeks in Ajiwe Police Station, Ajah, he was transferred to SARS, Ikeja, where he was detained for another one week before he was arraigned before Magistrate Court 17, Ikeja, on December 2013, on charges of armed robbery which he knew nothing about. And that he had since be remanded in prison custody without any further trial.
He, therefore, urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought.
Delivering judgement in the suit Monday, Justice Hassan, said he noted that the respondents filed counter to the suit but there was no prove of service of the counter on the applicant in the court file. And that the respondents never appeared before the court to argue the counter.
The judge said with the development, he was therefore constrained to grant the reliefs sought by the applicant.
Consequently, Justice Hassan while declaring the arrest and detention of applicant as illegal and unlawful, ordered the deputy-controller of prisons, to immediate release of the applicant (Jones Ofori) from detention.
The judge also awarded the cost of N10 million damages against the third respondent, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), for the unlawful arrest and detention of the driver.